How Equine Nutrition Combined With The Right Medical Protocols Can Dramatically Improve Equine Immunity
Keeping horses healthy and disease- and disorder-free are hot topics on the Internet and in many popular press journals and magazines. Advice ranges from nutrition to shoeing and veterinary care. Suggestions generally include:
- Employ qualified veterinary and farrier care and routine management for deworming and vaccinating. Deworming guidelines are changing, so consult your veterinarian concerning fecal egg counts and possible adjustments to your deworming program.
- Feed good quality forages and balanced, low starch, high fat and fiber concentrates in the correct amounts to meet the optimal nutrient requirements of each horse.
- Provide access to fresh water and salt at all times, which is critical for electrolyte balance and hydration.
- If possible, provide adequate exercise and access to turnout. Both are needed to help prevent the development of poor behavior and keep the digestive tract and musculo-skeletal system functioning properly.
- Use various supplements (if needed) to help combat a host of potential problems, including a malfunctioning digestive tract. For instance, too much starch in the hindgut can cause conditions like colic, gastric ulcers and sub-clinical acidosis. If left unchecked, it can also lead to laminitis.
All of the above guidelines are vital to keeping horses healthy. But can nutrition have an even bigger impact? The answer is yes and here is how:
- A recent study using mice revealed that Omega-3 fatty acids promote an immune response known as a T helper-1 response, or Th1 response. T helper cells are a type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are important because they help direct and activate other white blood cells to help prevent illness. Flax is a good source of Omega-3, but fish oil is better.
- Animal experiments and clinical intervention studies indicate that Omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties and might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
- Emerging science shows probiotics are powerful components of immune system health and because as much as 60% of immune cells are located in the digestive tract, it makes sense that keeping those cells functioning well is vitally important. This includes prebiotics that help maintain a healthy hindgut and mitigate exposure to pathogenic bacteria and mycotoxins. Yeast cultures are considered both prebiotics and probiotics and have significant research indicating the benefits for horses.
- Proper supplementation of vitamins and minerals is extremely helpful to keep the immune system healthy and fight off infection. Zinc, selenium, iron, copper and vitamins A, C, and E have important influences on immune responses and may be needed in amounts higher than maintenance requirements under stressful circumstances.
The immune system protects a horse from infectious agents that exist in the environment, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other environmental stresses, such as training and performance. Nutrition affects equine immune system function. If excellent quality nutrition is not available, there is an increased risk of illness. Providing optimal intake of energy, macronutrients and micronutrients and alternative nutrition helps improve the immune system and is fundamental to protect the health of the horse. Your horse may look fat and happy, but without proper nutrition, can develop colic, infections and laminitis.
Triple Crown horse feeds contain prebiotics, probiotics, yeast cultures and proper vitamin and mineral balances to avoid guessing or added cost to your feeding program. Omega-3 supplementation is available through Omega Max (ground flax) or Fish Oil Powder (very palatable with a flax and rice bran base).